Transition is a weekly post about a playlist of new albums I’ll listen to. I try and sit down with each album daily until a week has past. Then it’s time for a new playlist! I’m creating an archive of albums on my Spotify until I die, Spotify gets into a worrisome lawsuit, or I go deaf. You can find me in the Spotisphere at vheissu15.
Holy crap! It’s time to write one of these bad boys up again now that I’m back from the folk festival and can actually listen to some upbeat music again. It’s so exciting!!!! Let’s get right into it.
Wye Oak - Shriek
I’ve already heard this album one time through and I doubt it’ll make it oustide the top 10 of my year end list. Wye Oak, even with more traditional guitar orientated music, has always caught my ears with straightforward music and the beautifully haunting voice of Jenn Wasner. This album is upbeat as hell. I’m excited to listen to this for eternity.
Conor Oberst - Upside Down Mountain
I’m one of those people that can get over how terrible Oberst’s voice is.
Tokyo Police Club - Forcefield
One of my buddies mentioned this band to me back in my radio station days. And so I haven’t gotten around to it until now. 4 years later. Oops.
The Past Lineup
Every Time I Die - From Parts Unknown
This album is straight and to the point. No messing around. Except maybe the music video they made for “Decayin’ with the Boys”. But it’s fast and pissed so I’ll continue to like it until I’m old. (old is like… 80 years old right?)
Mastodon - Once More Round the Sun
This album was on repeat at the folk festival. My buddy, Mason, and I had only seen them a month previously so why not?
The Hold Steady - Teeth Dreams
Long live Minnesotan music. Especially THS. Because they dad-rock the living ‘f out of everything.
The Summit EPA is a staple beer among us North Dakota/Minnesotan beer drinkers that need a heavy hitter instead of a macrobrew. But I might be speaking for myself. WHO KNOWS?! Saga is another Summit brew that I often go to if it’s around and Two Hearted isn’t nearby.
Let’s see what the pretentious beer drinkers say about this beer. Can I get some extra jargon with that?
Nearly translucent orange-amber, by far more orange than amber, topped by a good looking cap of sticky beige foam that started out at three fingers and is slowly deflating. Better than average lace in disrupted sheets. The nose is slightly underpowered, but isn’t that far out of line for the style. It’s an enticing mixture of fruity-herbal (peaches, nectarines) and citric hops, slanted more toward the former.
This is a decent, respectable version. It’s well-balanced with caramel malt and hops playing off one another nicely. Malty sweetness is cut by hoppy bitterness, assuring that neither one makes much of a statement. I would call it bland and boring, but there’s a bit too much flavor for that to be the case. It is a rather generic APA though. Modestly dry, flinty finish. The body and the amount of carbonation are neutral, as middle-of-the-road as the rest of the beer.
Some top rater from Iowa on BeerAdvocate
My buddy, Jacob, mentioned how Summit needs a facelift. The beer labels are unexciting and don’t grip anyone’s attention. Maybe they want to be plain but I can spot 80 more beers in a craft section that make me want to drink it because of the name or the design of the case. But hey, you can never judge a beer by it’s cover.
Pope’s Hill made up for a non-existent Northern Lights show this year. Friday morning creeped up on us along with an intense fog that covered the lower fields below the hill. The sun was about to make its round past the horizon so everything was hazy and surreal. I saw outlines of bodies moving across the mist towards the tree that resembled the tree of life in Lion’s King. My gang took the opportunity to run into the fog with no hesitation. It’s like right out of a chapter in a crappy romantic novel but there aren’t many opportunities to do something. It was pretty special.
There were no clouds in sight come Saturday morning. I wasn’t tired but I was alone. And for the second year in a row, I didn’t care. I went out to watch the sun rise by myself but I joined an audience to see it all happen again. Before it peaked across the tree line, a soccer match started. Makeshift goals were placed out in measured distance. Teams were evenly distributed with really talented soccer players willing to wake up at the break of day. The teams were split into a red team and a blue team. There were even a proper amount of refs. The world cup final was going to take place only two days after this but on that hill, at the moment, we were in Brazil for that final. Before the match got going, yellow cards were handed out and hilarious, choreographed play continued. It felt like a Harlem Globetrotter basketball game for soccer. I didn’t get to see anyone score by the time the sun came over the trees. It was far too bright and I was far too tired to streak naked across the pitch so I headed to bed.
The Concert Tent
I’m not sure what this tent was called but I’ll call it the concert tent. Last year, the tent only had one cover band play on the Thursday evening after the folk festival events were done. This year, cover bands played over the span of Thursday, Friday and Saturday night – a wise choice in my opinion. I was drawn to it every night for some sing-a-longs and dance sessions.
I forgot the specific name of the choir but wow, the dedication for this group to practice, come out and perform the way they did for us folkies is monumental. The word around town is that they played a lot of original content but regardless, it was well done and entrancing. Often times, they’re lyrics were dry and witty so I had a few good chuckles out of it. They formed a crowd of 70 or so around a fire pit that was SPITTING out fire wood. The conductor actually got a hot log (heh) right in the foot area and trooped out the rest of the song with a grimace on his face. They had the crowd singing along nearly half the time. There was a lot of energy in the area that could have lasted until morning if only they had prepared 5 hours of songs for us.
Randy’s Bon Fire
We had a bon fire that attracted approximately 10 strangers that came by for a quick warm up. Not bad for a bon fire that usually last 45 minutes for 3 of the nights. We did have a passerby that had a voice that resembled Hannibal Lecter. He asked for a man named Colton. We didn’t have a Colton with us so he left. A couple strangers later, we mentioned the story of the creepy man looking for a Colton. Somehow, the man we told the story WAS COLTON. He was standing in our circle and asked where the passerby went. And from there on out, we put out the fire and decided it was safer to walk elsewhere.
The Tattoo Parlor
So there was a makeshift tattoo parlor where EVERYONE was getting either their butt cheek or tramp stamp area tatted. The tattoos were obviously ink guys. No one walked home with permanent ink. The first tattoo stamp I picked up was a naked woman and it should have happened guys, but then again I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. Maybe next year.
The Sun Dial
The Sun Dial was directly west of my tent so throughout the days, phrases such as “THIS IS SO NOT THE RIGHT TIME” and “OH NO I’M LATE FOR MY APPOINTMENT” were commonly screamed over my campsite.
The Cold Shower Section
I was uncomfortable showering in front of other guys back in high school so showering, even with shorts on, in front of attractive women with bikinis (and sometimes naked) was way too much. I don’t even think it’s the naked part. I’m so used to showering alone that it’s an intimate part of living life. I like showering and find it enjoyable. But it was a bonding experience for everyone who actually did it. No one went in enjoying the experience. It’s painfully cold. I did get complimented on how “fresh” I smelled once so the cold shower was worth it in the long run.
When musicians finish songs, the musician often feels weird about it. The song might not feel finished to them or they’re just relieved it came out the way it did. It’s like this blog post. I know I have more to tell but once it’s passed 4000 words, it’s tough to keep going. There’s enough here to tell you how my experience went or maybe remind you of some things that went on if you attended. And if you didn’t attend, maybe it’s enough to get you familiar with the atmosphere of the folk festival. It’s definitely worth going to at least once in everyone’s life. I’ll be happy to attend this the rest of my life if I get the chance so I’ll be crossing my fingers for the next year of my life.
The folk festival has kept me coming back for one reason only: the music. I don’t think I could go to a country fest just to party in the campgrounds for 4 days straight. There’s no point to that for me. I mean, I technically “party” at the folk festival but I get so much more out of trip by catching the music that the festival brings in each year. I have too many artists and musicians in my library because of the festival alone. The word “discovery” is right there alongside “community” in everything you read or hear about the folk fest. Here’s what I discovered this year.
Sharon Van Etten. I should write about her last since she was the last person I saw but nope, I NEED to write about her NOW. I don’t know much about her personally but from interviews and on stage banter, she is so genuinely dorky and AMAZING. She makes me laugh way harder than I feel comfortable with. I think she comes off as an introvert stuck with goofy personality that’s meant to be moving a crowd into different arrays of emotions. She’s a fricking oxymoron. Sharon is a mix of emotions. She’s like that damn movie, 50/50. One second, you’re balling your eyes out and the next, you’re laughing you ass off. I don’t get that from anyone else and it makes me want her to be my best friend.
Before the Big Blue performance, she handed 15 or so umbrellas to audience members. I’m actually bummed I didn’t take advantage of that but I already had a blanket around me so I would have been the biggest jerk for that. She won cool points for that but then she won ALL the points half-way through the set. She started talking to a little girl in between her songs. It was so fucking cute it made me want to cry (excuse my language but my first f-bomb on this blog had to appear in this sentence. No way around it). Tatum will always remember this moment because of Sharon Van Etten. I won’t forget it. She’s an incredible human being with an incredible superhuman voice.
I was reminded on the way back to Fargo that Sharon Van Etten was playing the Aquarium that night after the festival ended. It inhibited the post-festival blues for me. And though I saw her the two previous days, Sharon and her band made it an entirely different experience. They adapt quickly to the different settings. I don’t want them playing dive bars in Fargo anymore. I want them playing sold out shows to crazy stadiums across the world. I want Etten to be as successful as possible.
Boy and Bear was incredible as well. I saw a lot of fan-girling (I was a part of it) and a lot of musicians in workshops* getting hooked right away too. There’s a not a lot to dislike when a band is from Australia and make good rock’n’roll tunes. Catchy is often used in music but I can’t overstate how catchy this band is. I have plans to see them with Bahamas in October. That show will be the death of me.
*if you’re unaware of workshops, they’re festival sets that involve multiple musicians and performers that take turns song after song. It’s a unique daytime option that can help you get as much music in as possible. It’s also a great time to see musicians get thrown into awkward situations and see how they handle it.
Bonnie Raitt was way more impressive than I originally thought she would be. Mason mentioned how tough she is and I couldn’t agree more. She’s an incredibly strong woman with a lot of roots and southern backbone in her. She represents a strong community of female musicians. Raitt transcends music. There’s a reason she went down in to rock’n’roll hall of fame history. And yes, I completely lost it when “I Can’t Make You Love Me” came on. I prepared myself for weeks to numb my feelings for that song but it didn’t work. I was a gigantic baby out there opening night.
Sara Lee Guthrie and Ruth Moody are my crushes now. They’re also extremely talented musicians and I don’t want to downplay how awesome their music is but I swooned.
The Wood Brothers stand up bassist dances weirdly.
Ben Harper is boring (sorry).
Canadians always say sorry when they don’t understand you at first. It’s funny. It’s not, “What did you say”. It’s just “sorry?” They also use “holidays” as a synonym for “vacation” and that makes me giggle. And I completely lost it when Maple pronounced “pasta” like a Bostonite pronouncing “pastor”. For example – PASTAH. I’m not sure ANYONE pronounces pasta that way but if Canadians do that, then sign me up. I’m moving in right away.
JP Hoe is extremely talented and I’m glad he’s representing Manitoba music. He played that “Conversation” song at least 4 times this week and I was glad to listen to it every time, especially when he pronounces the ‘tion like it’s ‘teon. It reminded me of Colin Meloy of the Decemberist. I’m impressed with him.
Chic Gamine kills it live but I just could never get into their music.
Old Man Canyon was a dark horse in this festival. They got booked super late but they came out very impressive. Some songs come off as the typical big sound folk-rock song you hear on the radio nowadays like the Lumineers or Mumford and Sons. They can get groovy in some songs too. It’s totally danceable. He/they don’t have many tunes out there but it appears they’re growing at an alarming pace so I wouldn’t be surprised to see OMC making it big in the near future.
Langhorne Slim. Hoooooooooooooooooooooooly crap. Some people are over the top. Such as Langhorne. But that man and that band do it in a way that you can’t help but feel it. And it feels alright. CAN I GET A YA? I’m a head bobber. Not much of a dancer. Mason and I aren’t much of dancers but we got stuck right in the middle of the dance section. Langhorne Slim has those very noticeable build-ups that lead to absolute chaos. Mason and I could feel the anticipation of a crazy banjo dance riff slowly creep up and the look he gave me right before shit broke loose was terrific. His eyes said, “oh crap, there’s no getting out of this one. We’re done for.” And we may have died. I’m not sure if I’m actually writing this now.
Hurray for the Riff Raff was somewhat underwhelming. I like her music and I liked her performance. Nothing wrong in that. But she still looks like Aubrey Plaza so I’m not going to hate on her.
Then there was old lady Jane (not sure it was her name to be honest), ex-military Jeff (I don’t remember his name either), stink-eye bartender, doppelganger of my ex-girlfriend’s best friend, Claire, and the weirdest story of Max and Liam.
First, before getting into those guys, I must introduce my best friend Mason. Born and raised in West Fargo, North Dakota, he lived only a couple blocks down from the road from me and attended a couple classes with me until senior year of high school. Music is a passion we both have. Lately, a confused early-to-mid 20s is keeping us bonded too. He attended the Navy which broke him out of his shell he had all throughout schooling. He joined the Navy without notice and it was terrifying for me (more so for him probably). He left without warning over fear that I wouldn’t agree with his decision (I think) and before I knew it, I was wondering what the hell would happen to him whether out at sea or when he came back home. He came back every now and then but the visits were short and there wasn’t much to talk about. I still think he felt bad for not letting me know he left. Once he was discharged honorably, I got him to come hang out with me on my birthday and we sat down for a few drinks. The friendship was rekindled and whatever anxieties we had about each other were lifted. And I mentioned this folk festival to him during that visit and he was hooked from the get-go. Luckily for me, I had my best folk festival partner to date (no offense to Megan who was extremely awesome to be with last year and I wish soooo badly she could have came with this year. But Mason is my main bruddah [i.e. brother but in a dumb accent that Mason and I ended up calling each other the whole time]).
Back to the hooligans in the paragraph before. Old Lady Jane was the first conversation Mason and I had that got him situated with the amount of friendliness this whole folk festival had in store for us. He was blown away with the how much ease it took to make friendly conversation with everyone around. Old Lady Jane was bewildered we came from the states, much like everyone we met. Seriously, Americans, go up to Winnipeg and mention you drove from the states and watch the excitement rise in those Manitoban eyes. People think you came from another planet just because you don’t have All Dressed Chips or Poutine. You meet all kinds of Old Lady Janes at the folk fest. Ex-Military Jeff was the first and only North Dakotan we met at the festival. He was extremely into Mason because of the Navy background so I backed off and went and charged my phone so they could talk about all crazy stuff they did back in their day. Then Ex-Military Jeff kept pointing out a petite woman scarfing down a veggie-burger “THE SIZE OF HER HEAD”. I normally can’t take too much of old dudes staring at younger woman for extended periods of time so I decided to go pound one of the veggie-burgers myself. It was actually pretty big. I hope he wasn’t staring at me eat it too.
I asked stink-eye bartender for some paper towels because someone spilled on my table. Moments later I tripped over the ground on the way back. It wasn’t a “fall flat on your face” trip but enough to make me look intoxicated. I bought a drink 5 minutes after that and she was extremely hesitant about it. *light bulb goes off* OH SHE THINKS I’M WASTED. Cleaning off the spill and subsequently appearing drunk by tripping off uneven ground will get you the stinkiest of stink eyes. She wanted to kick me out but I got out unscathed.
Doppleganger of my ex-girlfriend’s best friend, aka Theresa, was one of the weirder situations I had all trip. I know she could recognize me after the trip because I saw her walking by at least 10 times - which is A LOT for having 6000 people camping in one area. Another reason I know she could recognize me is because towards the last night, she was so fed up with me staring at her that she gave me the “jesus kid, stop looking at me” look. BUT IT’S NOT MY FAULT. I seriously had to figure out how she wasn’t Theresa. SHE LOOKED IDENTICAL. I figured it was too late by the time she noticed me and gave me “the look”. So much for a casual ice breaker that would have went along the lines of “hey, you look soooo much like someone I know back in the states” – again, using that I’m not from Canada would have ENTRANCED her. The damage was done. Theresa actually came with me to the folk festival two years ago so if only we saved that for this year I COULD HAVE INTRODUCED THEM TO EACH OTHER.
Last but certainly not least, Max and Liam. Max was a black Belgium fella and Liam was his Winnipeg partner in crime. I’m not extremely opposed to people sneaking into the festival but it does give you some feeling of being cheated out. We paid a lot of money to be here and if anyone can sneak in, it could lead to dangerous situations. These two did sneak in but they weren’t here to cause trouble. Actually, the craziest thing about these two is that they mistook me for another Brian that they befriended earlier. I was walking back after a dreaded early morning pee in the outhouses. These two strangers came up and asked “How are you doing Brian”? My mind resorted to, “holy shit, I forgot who these guys were”. But then I noticed a black a guy with a thick European accent and thought, “there’s no f’ing way I could forget about someone like this at a folk festival”. Things were cleared out and we all had a good laugh over the confusion of the Brians.
Another year long wait - another folk festival gone in the blink of an eye. I found out that camping makes the full experience last a little bit longer than just attending the music so I decided to come back for another year. There isn’t much sleep so the hours add up. And the people you meet in the campgrounds add up too – so much that you end the trip with friendships that might last a lifetime. Or at least I hope so. There’s also the music that will be here for eternity. And the food. Oh God, the food keeps me coming back.
So here’s an extremely long-winded blog about what went down. I’m finishing this up while the memories are fresh and so I can keep coming back to them. If you find it interesting enough, than it’s probably not my writing that’s helping you out. It’s this darn festival. It’s just that cool.
There were only 5 days spent in folk festival “community”. You can’t avoid calling this a community by the way. You hear it in every interview. You see it in every article. And it’s not wearing out its welcome. It truly is a community even though it’s built up and torn down in 5 days. I didn’t get to say goodbye properly to a few and for some, I just felt like our conversations were cut short. There were also those that I hope stick around. Let me discuss the relationships that made this trip memorable!
There was the ambitious *Ellis, volunteer of the graveyard shift to make sure drunk idiots weren’t spilling beer over the phone chargers. We sort of kept each other company against each other’s will but I must have impressed her by not spilling any of my drink over the three unoccupied Iphones. The conversation flowed. We talked of college, life in Ottawa vs Fargo, the festival, what volunteering was like and bassoons (or maybe it was an oboe… Canadian beer really doesn’t help memory). Tired conversations at four in the morning when running off the fumes of folk festival excitement is the best. Simply the best. We risked seeing each at a workshop the next day and didn’t run into each other until the last day of the festival. And we risked the same thing at the festival main stage the last day. When we live in a day where phones are soooo accessible (mine was right in front of me.. charging) why not ask for contact information so you don’t run the risk never seeing someone again. Dumbest move on my part throughout the whole festival because Ellis goes down as the funnest late night talk I’ve had in a long, long time.
*Ellis is what I thought I heard. I’m not sure if her accent messed with me or not. I probably still have her name all wrong but she was one of the first people I met and felt like I really met someone worth talking to.
The two coolest and newest friends were Maple and Kat. Maple is such a Canadian name by the way. When I’m older, I’m naming my son Freedom or Eagle. Maybe even Rifle. Maple is unbelievably quick at talking. So much that she’s destined to be an auctioneer. And she was the most analytical person I talked to under a beer tent. Kat actually found me on this darned website so I’ll have to say nothing but good things about her. I was going to anyways. ;) She was mysterious and very unpredictable - in the most amusing ways. I say mysterious because I think her schtick is to mess with everyone. Maybe it was all unintentional but it doesn’t make her any less interesting. Also, I think she started a 10 person pow-wow dance, including made up chants on top of Pope’s Hill. Seriously, there was chanting going on and all 10 people were synced up. I feel like there was a weird spirit flowing through everyone that night and it was channeling from Kat, the life of Pope’s Hill festivities on Friday night.
My direct neighbors included Randy, Milo and Gabe. Randy was by himself and kept to himself. He was a reserved fella, retired from being an architect and a teacher. I was convinced he was an undercover agent for a secret Canadian investigation unit that was looking for supplies of crazy, over-the-top drugs at the folk festival. He either was not undercover or he did a great job. I was surprised he showed up in the festival camping and embarrassingly, I was scared he was going to be a pesty old man. Well, he was exactly opposite. We didn’t get shooed off his lawn and he even started a couple bon fires with us. He also helped set up a smoke machine for our neighbors across the pathway. Not only did they have a smoke machine, they had lazer beams of all colors shooting in different directions and Christmas lights planted across their tent that moved in all types of directions. It was a pretty site, even for the sober. I didn’t say goodbye to him properly and I hope I see him out at the next around.
Milo and Gabe on the other hand, were less reserved. I was offered too many shots and a couple games of beer pong. They seemed the most unlikely of friends but they pulled it off. Gabe was born in Argentina and raised in Canada so I was interested in his story immediately. I’m sure I pestered him too much about it. He also pulled off the greatest, monotone geeky white guy version of Baby Got Back I’ve ever listened to. I wish I had a recording for you all. I’ve attached a glorious selfie of us below.
Section break starts now. Skip to the second part here. It’s mostly about more people I met.
The third part is linked here. It’s mostly about the music I saw and it’s the part I love most.
The fourth part is linked here. It’s mostly about the festival’s unique landscape and amenities that it offers.
Random Start: Baroness - Yellow Theme + Take My Bones Away
My shuffle gave me Yellow Theme as my random start. A minute and a half long ambient intro isn’t the best way to start of an important day so I decided to put in the transition tune right after it. And it so happens to be my favorite from Yellow. It’s been awhile Baroness.
Sweatiest Dude From a Band Award goes to John Baizley (proof is this video)
Drop the Blue Moon guys. Oberon should be your go-to summer brew.
Here’s a pretentious beer review that we can not understand together! Woo:
Bottle: Poured a hazy yellow ale with some white haze and a medium bubbly white head with average retention. Aroma of weak wheat with some discernable hops. Taste is quite refreshing with a nice dose of wheat back with some sensible Saaz hops, which provide character without shadowing all the malt. Body is above average and about right for the style. Very enjoyable beer overall and would make a great session beer for hot summer days. - Some guy from Canada on beeradvocate
Bell’s will probably always be my favorite brewery. Oberon is a staple in the midwest during the summer so I make sure to purchase it for the sunniest of days.
Random Start: The Hold Steady - Lord, I’m Discouraged
The Hold Steady is hit or miss, depending on the day. I’m not sure this was the right song for this morning because I think I’m going to go get a donut soon and that’s not discouraging. That’s a daymaker right there.
Craig Finn HAS to be Randy Newman’s son. HAS TO BE.
Click here for a link to an interview with Mr. Craig that’s conducted by Drew Magary, one of my favorite internet writers (that offers no proof that Finn is Newman’s son but is pretty interesting regardless).
Random Start: The Rural Alberta Advantage - Don’t Haunt This Place
RAA was one band that I constantly drilled into my head to get over the bad vocals. Sorry, I feel bad for calling them bad since I don’t mind their singing style now but when I first listened to RAA, I thought I was listening to dying cats with amazing songwriting. Most times, I honestly can’t get over the voice but between these guys and Fucked Up, I can forgive it - and honestly enjoy Nils’ voice.